Is Social Media The Best Teen Birth Control?
From sliding into the DMs and Tindr, to that secret sex playlist you made on Spotify (mine’s called “The Fornication Station”) and Netflix and chill, social media has made sex available at the push, swipe, and click of a button. Yet the ability to stream “Bump N Grind” on 27 different apps and websites hasn’t caused the spike in sex your parents feared it would. In an odd twist, rates of teen pregnancy have actually dropped dramatically. For teenage hooligans in England and Wales, pregnancy rates plummeted 45 percent over the last nine years to their lowest levels in 50 years. Why? According to some theorists, it’s because teens are too busy sitting on Facebook writing horrifying journalistic status updates all day. The “poke” has become the new penetration, if you will.
With teens causing a spike in social media usage and the British government launching online language guides for parents (even I didn’t know GNOC means “get naked on cam”), the idea of Facebook being the new chastity belt does have some theoretical basis. The problem is that even if young people are on social media for hours every day, it doesn’t mean they’re holed up in their rooms. This isn’t 2002. We’ve cut the dial-up. Teenagers can check their social media feeds while they’re on their way to a booty call.
A couple thousand miles away from this new social media sexciling theory about England’s and Wales’ plummeting pregnancy rates, pregnancy rates in the United States have also plunged lower than our standards at the bar last night. Teen baby bumps have been on the decline since they peaked in the early ’90s, with 2010 rates 44 percent lower than in 1991. Sure, it’s still higher than most other developed countries, but we’ve come a long way since Teen Mom and 16 and Pregnant. In America, teens tend to be online more than they’re asleep, so it’s natural to assume social media is the main reason for the drop in teen pregnancy. But, again, you could tweet anywhere in 2016—even while you’re balls deep (please don’t though). Sex levels have risen since the social media boom started in the early 2000s, though, and teachers are still required to teach abstinence-only education in 37 states, which has historically backfired and led to increases in pregnancy. So what’s the real reason teen pregnancy rates have dropped?
The answer might actually be social media—but not in the way you think. The rise of the Internet has allowed users to access information that had historically only been available through schools, books, and parents. If you only heard about abstinence as a developing young teen back in the olden days, that was it. You either had to sneak The History of the Orgasm out of the public library or experiment in secret, which meant having to sneak contraceptives as well. Now, Googling “249 best sex positions to try at home” is just as easy as going to Planned Parenthood to grab a handful of condoms (if they haven’t been shut down by legislatures yet).
— Planned Parenthood (@PPFA) November 10, 2015
Five years ago, 89 percent of young people used the Internet as their primary resource to learn about sex, birth control, menstruation, pregnancy, and STDs. The rise of the Internet has completely altered sex education and created an antidote to the archaic abstinence-only sex education that used to be the norm. Last year, Planned Parenthood’s social media accounts were nominated for a Webby Award for education and discovery and their social media reach has been overwhelmingly embraced by women. Their audience swayed 77 percent women aged 18 to 34 on Facebook and 69 percent female on their Twitter. The new normal for sex education is undisputedly through the Internet. With the birds and bees a YouTube video away, it’s no wonder pregnancy rates have dropped. A few swipes and taps through the latest information on contraceptives and birth control has made it easier than ever to stay educated and have sex safely.
Original imagery via Kathryn Chadason.
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